I spend the summer working in Mexico City with women who were former victims of sex trafficking. The organization I volunteered with is El Pozo de Vida, meaning ‘the well of life’. El Pozo de Vida is essentially an umbrella organization that runs a number of projects. These programs work to protect women from, and raise awareness about prostitution and human trafficking in Mexico. Some of their projects include a shelter for young women, an educational program spreading awareness of human trafficking in schools and a street festival aimed at integration. The project that I have been working with is Nunayu. The women that I work with run a jewelry making business, employing ten women who were victims of human trafficking. Here the women receive steady income, employment skills training and have access to a large number of supports and therapies.

The program receives a number of visitors each year who visit the site and meet with the women. Many of these visitors come from the United States and Canada, these visits are an opportunity for women to sell the goods that they have made. As part of my time with Nunayu, I gave a daily English lesson the purpose of which was to equip them with the basic language skills to communicate to visitors and sell their jewelry. On our first session I conducted a focus group with the women to find out what would be helpful for them to learn, from this information I created the lesson plans for the following weeks.

What struck me most about the women was their sense of humor, they always seemed to be laughing. I volunteered for a short time with an organization that worked with women who were victims of domestic violence. During our training, the director of the program told us not to be alarmed by the worker’s dark sense of humor around the topic of domestic violence, she said that it was their way of coping. I saw this here too, the women with whom I spent my summer were constantly laughing and joking with each other. It reminded me of the importance of humor. In my time here in Mexico I have found many similarities between the Irish and the Mexican, our dark sense of humor is one of these. It made me wonder whether it was our way of dealing with occupation historically. Ireland by the English and Mexico by the Spanish. I don’t know the answer to this but it is certainly interesting to think about.

My recommendation to anyone choosing this project is to have a good grasp on the Spanish language before starting in the organization. I had an amazing time working with this project but I was extremely limited in the work that I was able to do due to the language barrier. I would have loved to get involved in some of the other projects run by El Pozo de Viva but I would have needed a much better grasp on Spanish to be useful. There is definitely a lot of flexibility within this organization to explore the different projects.